Adventures with Ed: Food and Travel Blog

Back in the NY Groove 

It's been quite some time since I've been able to spend some real hang time, ie: not working, back in my natural habitat (and a while between blog posts--apologies)  but I really enjoyed the week I just spent in NYC.  The weather was absolutely perfect, though a bit hot it wasn't humid, and no rain all week.  That meant lots of walking, a good amount of color on my face and pate and new food adventures.

First stop was the Roxy Hotel in Tribeca and I'm impressed.  Well-designed, plenty of room, 8 floors of rooms, all well-appointed and clean and super friendly and helpful staff.  At the corner of 6th Ave. and White Street it's perfectly positioned for downtown exploration and the nearby Canal St. subway station.  It was very easy to get anywhere I wanted and there were many great food and coffee establishments within reach.  One caveat: it's an open floor plan, courtyard design which means depending on where your room is and what floor the lounge and the music/partying below could be an issue on weekends.  It stops around 1am but if you like to crash before that keep this in mind.  Stick to the upper floors and try to get a corner suite.  Having had two rooms, one on the 4th floor and later in the far corner of the 8th, I can attest to the difference.  There's a free for real movie theater in the basement for guests (outside walk ins pay) and a cozy jazz club called the Django that's a bit more refined than the lounge upstairs.

The goal was mostly to try places I had never been, were new and/or came highly recommended but what would a trip to NYC be without the first stop to the legendary (deservedly so) and just flat out awesome Katz's Deli on Houston.  In fact, I barely put my bags down in the hotel and sprinted over there.  Kat's is New York City to me.  The oldest deli in America and maybe the best (maybe??? ha!) it never ceases to blow me away.  Extremely consistent and excellent.  Nothing has changed, not even the pickles (which are my favorite pickles of all time and I'm a pickled food fanatic).  Limited though it may sound I always get the same thing: the pastrami Reuben and a sandwich of my own design, turkey, muenster, chopped chicken liver and cold slaw.  Both sandwiches with copious amounts of Russian dressing.  It had been so long I purposely ate very slowly, taking moderate yet full bites and savored each delectable morsel.  I felt a little like Homer Simpson but it was worth it.  No need for another meal that day I can tell you!!


I know, drool right?  Makes me drool just writing about it.

Next up was a stroll around Pier 26 on the water off the West Side Highway (gotta' work off that Katz's no?).  This whole West Side pier system wasn't here yet when I live in this 'hood but though highly commercial it is pretty cool and a nice resource. (My last apartment in NYC before I left was four blocks from the World Trade Center).  Gorgeous day, beautiful pier (sans the "party boat" restaurant/bar that was docked and packed with noisy, drunken preppies), minature golf, beach volleyball, play area for the kids...nice:

Sunday brought a new favorite restaurant, Pepolino's on West Broadway near the hotel.  I'm notoriously tough on Italian places being half-Italian and with sa brother who's a world-class chef but this place is aces.  Real, deep, authentic Italian with just a touch of flair and a nicely varied menu.  Hearty without being too rich.  The wait staff was extremely knowledgeable and very friendly and attentive.  A++  I had the daily pasts special. Spigatoni (slightly wider than spaghetti) and my companion had the rabbit pasts which is a regular menu item.  The Caprese salad was superb as was the special cured carpaccio and arugala, the Buffalo mozzerella was sublimely textured and super fresh and the panna cotta desert with just a lovely light berry sauce was primo.  Oh yeah, you can always tell a great restarant by the bread and theirs was killer with a nice tomato pate spread:


Monday's dinner (leftover Katz's was lunch <g>) brought another highlight in Terroir, a sort of wine bar (in that they only serve Riesling but really GREAT Riesling) with tapas a few blocks west of the Roxy.  This place KILLS.  Unreal.  Every single dish they brought out was amazing.  The Gardiniera was absolutely outstanding (the brine their own veggies), great olives, carpaccio, the cheeses, oh the cheeses, that's one of their specialties and Joe our host really knows his stuff.  Trust him.  Chicken liver pate was stellar too.  If I could give more than 5 stars I would:

Oh yeah, and great desserts too:


And Joe concocted an unbelievable virgin fermented grape cocktail for me.  Definitely will be returning to Terroir.


I used to frequent Rudy's Music Shop on W. 48th street, especially in my many years in Hell's Kitchen, but they moved down to Soho and I really dig the new space.  The guys there are super cool and it's a great hang.  Just a brisk 10 minute walk from the hotel:

This one will only set you back $130,000.  Only a few hundred made:

And I fell in love with this old ES-175.  Only &7500.

Back to food.  Chinatown and Bao time.  A lot has been made online about Golden Steamer and their Bao so we had to try it.  Nice people but maybe the most disappointing excursion of the whole trip.  Don't get me wrong, it was good just not great.  A solid value though.  We got 8 big Bao rolls for $7. and couldn't even finish them all.  The best bet is the big bun.  It has pork, hard boiled egg and vegatables and is big enough that one will do.  The Pumpkin was okay too but, as we say in NYC, "meh":

Which brings us to the second worst food experience of the trip: Gallagher's Steakhouse.  While the steaks were perfectly aged the sides are a complete waste of money ($12 to $18.!) and horrendous.  Terrible scalloped potatoes and just okay creamed spinach.  The Caesar lacked everything including great Romaine.  My date's steak was slightly overcooked though mine was a perfect medium-well and extremely juicy and tender which isn't easy to do so kudos on that.  The wines were also terrible.  They brought two different glasses and both stunk.  The waiter was very nice but made a few recommendations that didn't sit well.  For close to $300. for two people avoid at all costs.  Better try Keen's or the Old Homestead instead.


If you're looking for a healthy, great, quick lunch on the West Side Tabouleh at 47th and 9th Ave. makes a killer falafel pita sandwich and their hot sauce is perfect, not too hot, not too sweet and just the right amount of tart (If you like hot--it comes without the sauce naturally).  Clean, crisp environment and the owners are very nice and pleasant to deal with.  BTW-The pita's come in a whole wheat roll so if you want plain you must ask for it (as I did):


Here's another neat find in Hell's Kitchen, my old neighborhood (and where I consider myself from truly), that can easily be missed if you're not careful.  A simple, small store front crammed between several bigger establishments on 9th Ave. between 44th and 45th Hand Pulled Noodles.  Unreal.  The noodles had about the best texture I've ever had outside Asia and the staff was very friendly.  We were the only non-Asian couple in the shop so my guess is it's pretty authentic.  The home-made Kimchee was excellent, the fried dumplings were awesome and the noodles were just super fantastic.  Not expensive either.  Go!

There aren't the fried ones we ordered because we ate them too fast but another steamed order they brought out:

I got to spend the next day, Thursday with my favorite uncle who's been ailing and suffering from dementia.  He recognized me straight off and the nurses were astonished.  Made me feel good.  My nephew (his son Josh) and I brought him some Chinese food from a great place on the Upper West Side called Han Dynasty at 85th and Broadway but no pics from that as we ate in the cafeteria at the nursing home and you know, private time.  It may be the last time I see him.

But for all my old friends from NYC I glad to report my nephew is keeping the old Hippie Treehouse alive and well and nothing has changed in 30 years.  Hell, nothing has hardly changed in 50 years there!  Dig:

Dang, I miss that place.  Hell's Kitchen is one of the few neighborhoods in NYC that haven't changed that much.  It's changed some of course but any improvement to a place named Hell's Kitchen (and it really used to be HELL'S KITCHEN) can't be all bad.  It's still feels cozy to me.

Moving on back to food, Madame Vo's was next for Thursday dinner in the East Village.  Meh.  Highly touted but not any better than an average Vietnamese place and I love Vietnamese.  We're lucky to have a few great ones in Nashville.  Madame Vo's Pho broth was excellent though as was the papaya salad.

Had some fancy but in the end just okay Gelato at Amorino at 60 University Pl. on our way to see Gyan Riley play at the New School.  What's the obsession with Macarons lately BTW?  They were everywhere in NYC.  Anyways, some pics but I've had better gelato.  Nice people though and doing brisk business:

Found my new favorite casual hang on Friday though.  The Donut Pub at 14th St. and 7th Ave.  I could live here <g>.  Great variety and kind, friendly staff.  Got to hang with my buddy Jun who I haven't see in 16 years but we've been friends for 35 years we figured out (!).  Such a great guy.  We had to get outta' there or I would have burst eventually:

Me and Gyan.  He killed it at the Stone at the New School.  Get his new album Sprig.  It's great:

The next day we were wandering around near our hotel when we noticed some activity around a business with no name above the door but all new and shiney and lit.  Two gents who turned out to be the owners beckoned us in as it was their first night open as a new restaurant.  Venetian food.  Why not?  Too bad they didn't know a foodie who blogs was in their midst.  I felt like a spy.  Not enough to not try it though.

The place is called Attraversa ("across the street" in Italian) though none of the people working there struck me as remotely Italian with their accents but so what?  They were nice and the atmosphere was good.  The wine sucked though.  Two different tries were both sent back.  The bread was killer though, among the best I've ever had in a restaurant.  You read that right, "ever".  They told me they have it made special for them and I believe it.  The Caesar salad was capable but not sardiney enough though the fresh sardines they had in the salad were fantastic.  Just wish there were more of them (4) or more flavor from the dressing.  Super fresh Romaine though.  The beet salad with goat cheese was superb though. Both pasta entrees, light sauce with scallops and spaghetti and meatballs (a true test of any place but a regular menu item here) were killer and passed the test.  The sauce on the spaghetti and meatballs was beautiful and textured.  Lots of layers and not as heavy as a Bolognese.  No doubt they have some kinks to work out but since they have a sister restaurant across the street they will get there.  Check it out.  You might be surprised.

And finally Saturday we decided to relax before our flight and grab some lunch at the Roxy hotel lounge which is fairly well heralded.  For good reason it turns out.  The pan seared Brusssel sprouts were divine (I love Brussel sprouts) and my grilled cheese with avocado, tomato and bacon was excellent.  So was the seafood chowder.  Good fries as well.  Very relaxing and a nice end to the trip.

More shots of the inside lounge of the Roxy:

A really fun and invigorating trip.  Wish I had more time to explore and see old friends.  Next time I hope.  I also hoped maybe you gleaned something useful from this installment of my blog and what to avoid as well.  I'm somewhat torn whether to keep doing it as I don't want anyone to feel jealous or envious.  Most of my trips are for work and frankly with a few exceptions don't cost a lot.  Here's hoping you get out there yourself soon and enjoy everything the world has to offer.  Please write to me if you have any questions or comments.  'Till next time!


PS-There was this great pastry shop called Woops! on Worth St. near the hotel and it was a haven each morning for coffee and treats.

Oh and P.S.S-Go to the Whitney.  They're having a great modern American exhibit right now and it's great.  The Whitney is the only museum I never visited while living in NYC and I'm so glad I got to check it out.  Okay, now I'm really gone.  Peace!!!


Back to London, travel tips and why to not go to Norway at Easter 

Very interesting trip back to London and Norway the past two weeks.  While my trip to London to record with my free improv outfit the London Experimental Ensemble was extremely productive and fruitful (go to my Facebook page for the many pics of that session: I actually didn't get a single chance to explore any new restaurants.  It was just too busy and too short a trip.  However that doesn't mean I didn't get exposed to some new food traditions, specifically condiments.  A year spent in London and nobody mentioned Picalilli or Branston's to me?  Blasphemy!  These are two venerable British food institutions and, in the right applications, are indispensable.  Picalilli is a mustard/pickle combo that can be very useful on sandwiches but I found it best in combo with a little Coleman's mustard on my bread (side note: if you're feeling a little "out of sorts", ie: irregular from travel Coleman's will speed it along.  The original strength that is).   Branston's is a type of what Americans might refer to as Chutney however it's not as "glassy" or sweet and better balanced for non-Indian foods IMO.  Just wonderful on sandwiches and perhaps exactly what is used on the classic Ploughman's Lunch.  Highly recommended.

Before we get to Norway how about some travel tips, particularly for Americans (maybe only for Americans):

America, we have too much crap.  Our homes are on average much bigger than those in Europe and we over pack.  You don't need to bring your whole life along.  Those big suitcases being marketed the last few years?  Don't do it.  They'll just put you overweight for the airlines anyway.  A second bag?  Don't do it.  Unless you have a gold account you'll pay for each extra bag, up to $100., which really adds up if you're going to more than one location and changing planes and carriers.  Each extra bag for each additional connection can really put you in the poor house up especially if they are overweight.  Keep weight and expenses down.  It can kill an otherwise fun trip.  What do you need to bring?  Three pants, five collared shirts, 3-4 t-shirts, a week's worth of underwear and socks (and really, who's gonna' know if you have to wear socks twice?) and your shower/kit bag.  That's it.  If you're going somewhere warm bring shorts obviously and a bathing suit.  You can hand wash things in the hotel bathroom or home you're staying it.  Nobody is gonna' notice nor care.  That's it.  Do not load down with more stuff.  Leave it home.  Don't bring expensive cameras and electronics unless you make your living with them.  They will just get broken or stolen.  It ain't worth it.  Nobody is gonna' enjoy your boring vacation pictures or videos more if they were taken with a $2000. camera believe me.

And as for gear for my musician friends the same goes.  Cut it down.  Your lightest guitar or other instrument.  Borrow what you can.  A small pedal board (yeah, even for a self-confessed pedal hound like me).  Think about multi-effect units.  You'll be surprised what you don't need or won't end up using.  Bring some strings and pics but don't load yourself down as you will be going from plane to train to car and back.  It will also wear you out.  I get all my gear into my on-board small rolly bag and carry on my guitar.  I check one bag.  That's enough.  I have learned (and have the back surgery scar to prove it).

So in summary, one bag, one small carry-on bag, personal bag (ie: for computer, medicine, tone cozies, etc.) and that's it (plus instrument for the msuicians).

Trust me, yo'll thank me later.

Now Norway.  Oy vey, Norway at Easter.  I have been living and returning to Norway for ten years now and  after writing a book and recording several albums here I thought I had seen every holiday season but I was wrong.  Oh, so wrong.  You really don't want to visit Norway at Easter.  Any other time of the year, including winter but not Easter.  Why?

Because the whole country shuts down for 5 days starting the Wed. before and continuing until the following Tuesday.  Most shops and restaurants close and everyone leaves town for the islands of Sweden (where it's not the same exact holiday) or points warmer like Spain.  Lots of Norwegians in Spain.  You'll find it hard to find good open restaurants (operative word GOOD), supermarkets are also mostly closed and the streets will be deserted until Thursday night which I'll get to in a minute and you want to avoid.  Deserted streets can actually bee nice if you have sights to see and know where to go or like hiking like myself but keep this is mind: you are on your own.

Here's something I wrote to my friends on the Gear Page to explain what was transpiring this past Thursday:


Okay, so let me kinda', sorta' explain what the hell went on here yesterday in my father's crazy country: 

So for some reason around 50 years ago somebody in Norway (duh, the church) decided the Thursday before Easter was gonna' be a holiday as well as Good Friday and Easter Sunday (they allowed a reprieve on Saturday so everyone can shop naturally...).  Right, so what does that mean to the average Norwegian?  Go to Sweden where it's not a holiday, drive around in vintage American cars and assorted hot rods old and new, buy as much alcohol as possible and tear both countries apart while pulling all kinds of insane stunts and mooning the TV journalists on live TV who cover this (Nothing like encouraging the savages huh?  Ratings!  Remind you of something?  Anyways...).  One such stunt included four idiots on the motorway at high speed, two of whom decided to trade seats in the back...over the roof!  The situation is so bad that it's the only time all year the police in Sweden and Norway actually trade places and the Swedes come here to keep law and order while the Norske police go to Sweden to try to control things.  Swedish police carry guns unlike their Norwegian cousins so they have to relinquish them at the border.  When the Norwegians get tired of sacking Sweden they come back here and camp in parking lots around town and go berserk until daylight.  Every place this morning looks like a tornado hit it in a usually pristine, normally very clean and orderly town. 

Everything is closed down again today save for one mini mart called Joker (like 7 Eleven) on the outskirts of town. 

Religious folk aren't happy they're even open and probably think they're Satanists but their logo (playing card Joker) might have something to do with that as well.  Me?  I'm completely okay with them being open.  They had coffee.


The crack about coffee is funnier when you know that yours truly was stupid enough to open a bag off sealed coffee in my flat cupboard without checking the expiration date (Ouch! 2014!!).  Coffee is only good 3-4 months after expiration date BTW.  Lesson learned.  I got sick.  But not to digress...I barely got to see any of my friends this week and just played with my gear, re-programmed some stuff which was actually helpful, watched some online tutorials and lessons (Yup, I do that.  One can always get better) and watched a European Magpie build a nest outside my window.  Wish I had filmed that.  Could've made a neat music video.  Or not.  Oh, and got this installment of the blog written so there's that.

So, no Norway in Easter.  Check.  Condiments in England.  Double check.  Pack light.  Very light.  Roger wilco!  So, we good?  Yup, we'uns very good.  I hope those tips help and I hope y'all get to London or Norway or any points in Europe soon.  They have a lot to teach us.  We can use that right now.  Cheers!!!!!!

(Oh, but I did get to take some pics of food and stuff of course.  Here they are with some explanations):

Branston's and Piccalilli from London:

Okay, so I bought a guitar and a guitar pedal before leaving London from my dear friends at No.Tom (the guitar stayed behind until I come back):

Ran into guitar wizard Tommy Emmanuel at the airport.  We both live in Nashville and have never met:


Ran into my buddy Thurston Moore at the John Tilbury/Keith Rowe (AMM Muusic) gig at Cafe Oto (and had a nice chat with Norwegian percussion legend Ingar Zach):

Keith Rowe's rig at said gig:

My first meal back in Halden, Norway at my favorite restaurant, Cafe Ernesto.  Sadly Ernesto is retiring and moving to Spain.  Sad ravioli:

The deserted streets of Halden the Thursday before Easter:

The canal looks fine though:

A proper Norwegian sweater.  Dale of Norway:

The magic elixir, Solo orange soda.  Once you taste it there's no going back (and no Fanta):

I did learn something about food on this trip.  Norwegians LOVE waffles, their own kind thinner and slightly sweeter than ours but tastier and more textured.  Try them with Norwegian brown cheese.  I thought, "No way" but it's glorious as well with jam and cream:

Fredrikstad, the old fortress and the cafe where we had these magical waffles and of course coffee.  Serious coffee (Norwegians don't mess around when it comes to both)

Easter dinner at a friend's house.  Indian and weird ice cream with caramelized sugar, cashews and basil.  Yes, basil:

The magpie's nest on the side of the tallest tree on the right.  He's peaking out on the left.  He was very cagey:

My favorite, Norwegian chocolate:

And finally, the blue moon over the fortress.  "Blue moon of Fredriksten keep on shining":

PS-If you ever want to know what it sort of feels like to pilot a rocket ship test drive a Tesla S and try the "Insane" and "Launch" modes together.  But don't eat lunch beforehand:


Nashville Vietnamese update 

Howdy gang, I thought I'd add a few tidbits to my post of a few months back since I've found a new, terrific Vietnamese option in Nashville and revisited an old fave that is back up to standards.

First things first, Kien Giang is back to being as good as it was a few years ago.  I don't know why it faltered when I returned from London but after two trips in 2017 I was definitely disappointed.  I'm glad to report though that after a recent trip it's back to its old standards of excellence and the service is probably, maybe?, a bit better than before.  Give it another shot if you felt the same and came up short with them in 2017.

The new spot I've found and tried twice to make sure I wasn't hallucinating is Pho Ann in Belle Meade in the Kroger shopping center near White Bridge Rd.  Really great Pho, great entrees and terrific, friendly service.  And no big lines or crowds!  Maybe it hasn't been discovered yet?  They'll even ask you what kind of broth you like (vegetarian, beef or chicken).  Both times we went were stellar and very consistent.  A+++

Pics (sorry there aren't more but when my phone died some didn't get backed up.  More soon):


Hiking the state parks in Nashville 

So when the doctor gave me a choice for rehab from my back operation between a cold, sterile facility in the hospital to that of my own choosing, well, you know what I did.  After all, with 30 years of rehabbing sports injuries in my background they probably weren't gonna' teach me anything new that I couldn't do on my own and the sun was shining and it was summer.  Oh boy, was it summer.  It gets hot in Nashville but I persevered.  We're lucky to have some of the best free trails around and it was superb therapy.  Here are just a few spots that I really enjoyed:


Percy and Edwin Warmer Parks.  Right near me and endless.  Lots of great hills and valleys and you'll have company to feel safe but not too much.  Some trails can be challenging but they are pretty well posted as to lengths so you can pace yourself:


This root gets me every time.  I thought it was a lizard:

The pond would be good for me:Plenty of benches to rest if you wish:

Album cover?  Feels like my life:

Yeah, you might see a snake or two (harmless Kingsnake) or a deer.  No biggie:

Trails off the Natchez Trace, both state run and by the Williamson County DAR (the latter was my preference.  Much better maintained):



Um, get off there dad!


And last but certainly not least, the Narrows of the Harpeth.  Multiple trails, high peaks and kayaking for those who enjoy that sort of thing.  You could spend all day there and not get bored:

So just don't spend all your time in Music City down on Broadway.  Get out there and hike some trails!  They are all pretty easy to get to and not too far outside of midtown.

'Till next time...

Vietnamese in Nashville 

Back from back surgery.  Sorry about the long break but it was very necessary and one of the best decisions I've made in a long time.  Now, back to food...

One of the big surprises I found soon after moving to Nashville 15 years ago was among the dearth of food choices then (not now though thankfully) one bright, shining oasis was the bevy of Vietnamese restaurants in town.  They were usually the best and most consistent places to grab delicious and diverse dishes in Music City.  So, 15 years later how do they fare?  Hmmmm...not as good as I would like.

The best of the lot was always Kien Giang for me.  Sure, they weren't always the most friendly and they were cash only but they used to be among the best of the best for me.  Especially the Lemongrass Chicken and any of their soups.  Their broth is still the best IMO.  The appetizers were good if not special but even they were solid.  However they seemed to have dropped off a bit of late.  We even went back twice to make sure I was dreaming or just in a cranky mood.  Maybe they changed chefs.  It's still better than Miss Saigon, who a few of my friends prefer for they take credit cards and are friendlier but nope, they dropped off as well.  Maybe Nashville is growing too fast or maybe it's tough to hold on to talent.  Regardless, Miss Saigon fell in my estimation as well.

A few people have raved about the Viet Deli across the street from both Kien Giang and Miss Saigon on Charlotte Pike in West Nashville but unfortunately that was a disappointment as well.  My cousin loved his barbecue pork sandwich but I hated the appys and my soup.  The broth was far from complex and interesting and they sauces left much to be desired.

The one sort of bright spot was surprisingly a chain, Vui's Kitchen in Berry Hill.  Granted I only had their barbecue sandwich with fried egg on top but both times I went there it was excellent, fresh and delicious.  Both times my companion got a different noodle dish and they were happy as well.  In addition they have natural sugar sodas which I love.  Very clean dining area and super friendly staff.  Hopefully it stays that way but I will be back.


Anyways, I'm back on the horse as they say and hope to keep up with more food and better posts soon.  There's also one more Vietnamese place out near the airport that gets good Yelp reviews so updates soon.  In the meantime, pics for ya'll:


Vui's first:

Kien Giang:

Miss Saigon:

Viet Deli:

Some thoughts on Air B&B 

If you going to be away for long periods like I was living in London for a year it's very enticing to consider the Air B&B host route.  Yes, you can make good money doing it.  However, I found some pitfalls I'd like to share with you.

1.You need to get the proper permits and insurance.  Each town, in fact each part of your town or hamlet, has a limit to how many permits are available in that area.  It means standing in line, filling out forms and getting inspected by the Fire Marshal and yes, standing in more lines to get the final form processed.  However I strongly urge you to take the time and do it right (and legal).  This can help if you have any issues down the road with your house, with your liability and yes, simply protecting your guests.  Should you ever need to file a claim (more on that later) it can be very useful.  You may have to add more smoke detectors and have them synced properly and each exit must be easily accessible and can be no more than two doors away otherwise you will not pass inspection.  I know plenty of people who are hosting without the permits and inspection but this is playing with fire (pun excused).  Not recommended.  Just because you don't permit smoking in your home doesn't mean guests will honor this nor can you count on their using appliances correctly in your absence should you allow un-hosted stays (more on that later as well).  We got a million-dollar umbrella liability policy for only a few bucks per month so there's no excuse to not get the insurance at least.

2.Expect that guests will do everything wrong and treat your home as nothing more than a glorified hotel.  Even the good guests.  Stuff will get worn, damaged and broken.  Things will go missing.  We left a virtual manual behind of how everything works, including trash collection, only to get asked all the same questions via email and texts time and again and found 3 months of uncollected trash in the cans and in bags outside the cans because nobody took them to the curb.  This was all spelled out in our renters manual.  Don't be surprised if when you get back your washing machine is leaking because someone put something in it with a zipper and closed said garment in the portal and the liner ripped.  Don't be surprised if your coffee maker is funky or your couch is broken.  This and much more has happened to me.  For this reason many of my seasoned host friends will not rent un-hosted stays and will not rent to groups of more than 2-3 people.  I wholeheartedly agree.  Sure it's more money in your pocket but you are also just asking for trouble.  If you have to do un-hosted stays get a very responsible adult or find someone in your town, usually a realty agent, who manages Air B&B's and ABSOLUTELY REQUIRE that your guests do not check out unless that agent is there to do so with them present.  I had a guest in a short 4 day, 3 night stay absolutely trash my house, cause $5000. of damage, stole a lot of items and to top it off left with the house keys and alarm fobs.  I dare say it doesn't take a lot of imagination to think they were likely coming back later to do worse.  They obviously did not want to wait for my dear friends who signed them in to sign them out.  My friends were mortified when they saw the state of the house and realized the keys and fobs were missing.  This is not a call you want to receive at 1am and 8000 miles away.  So, no un-hosted stays without an reputable agent and no-one leaves without the agent signing them out.

3.DO NOT RENT TO ANYONE WITHOUT MORE THAN A FEW 100% FEEDBACK RATINGS.  See above.  Again, it's not worth the money and headache and my nightmare guest used at least one other name on Air B&B to hide his record and claimed this was an error on Air B&B's part.  Just say no.

4.If you have to make a claim you may be screwed.  Yeah, Air B&B says they have "1 million dollars" of insurance but there's a lot of fine print and most of it comes back on you.  We had to fight like dogs to get our damage covered and even then it was 2/3's of what we thought was the damage.  Turns out when we got home it was less than half of what was really damaged and missing.  Read the fine print and consider this carefully before you dive into being a host.  Can you afford a claim?

5.Do not do any repairs or upgrades before listing your home or apartment.  Why?  Because improvements cannot be written off against income until after your listing has been active.  And there will be wear and tear as previously noted.

6.Do not leave your good China, dinnerware, etc.  Maker sure you have extras available to your agent (forks notoriously go missing for example).  Make sure you have extra sheets and towels for your guests readily accessible.  They will go missing.  Some maid services won't allow their employees to go into closets to get these items.  Leave them out.  We lost an iron after one guest.  Have a spare.  Heck, have a spare of a lot of things.

I'm sure there's some stuff I've forgotten and I'll try to add that later as I remember and I'm not trying to scare you away.  You can make good money from Air B&B but just be warned that's it's not all cherries and cream and the responsibility will always ultimately fall back on you.  Guests will complain about things even if you think you remembered everything.  Sometimes the previous guest may not have been as responsible as you'd like.  As long as you're willing to accept these challenges you can manage well and do well.  If you're particularly attached to your house and sensitive how it looks and is presented I'd say tread lightly though.  This may not be the path for you.  Good luck!!  If you have any questions please don't hesitate to ask.


Branching out: New food excursions in London 

With my time running short in London and my year here coming to a close I thought I'd branch out a little and just wing it and try some new places merely based on sight or online reviews so here's what I found since January:

All three restaurants I visited this past month were superb but the big revelation was Son Tam House in Shepherd's Bush (mighty close to Chiswick though on Askew Rd.).  This place is one of the most phenomenal Thai restaurants I have ever had the pleasure to dine at.  The sweet chili sauce spare rips fall off the bone and are downright delectable and addicting.  Trust me, you'll have to control yourself as not to eat only them.  The spring rolls were solid but not extraordinary though.  Your mileage may vary.  The pancake with aromatic duck were really good but a touch dry and with so many sauce-based dishes available I'd say go that way.  The spicy chili pork with fried rice was spectacular.  The dining comes complete with your waiter telling you if you're eating your meal improperly (!) but he was utterly charming at it.  I loved the whole experience.

Spicy chili spare ribs:

Spring rolls:
Pancake duck:
Spicy pork:

Next up was a trip to W8 in Kensington.  Now this is a first-class restaurant.  Sure, the portions are small but expertly created and beautifully presented.  The staff is very attentive without being a nuisance and when our waitress heard us mention it was my birthday they brought out a lovely chocolate plate.  It's slightly expensive and I encourage making reservations but worth it.  They are also very smart in that they don't over-book.  You may notice empty tables on off hours but that's to balance the staff on duty.  Very smart.  I started with the salad of baked heritage beatroots, scorched onion cream, crispy kale and balsamic and it was really special.  The raviolo of corn fed chicken, melted onions and winter roots was also delightful.  For my main I had the roast rib of aged Ayreshire beef with Yorkshire pudding (I find it hard to resist a good rib and Yorkshire) and also the pumpkin gnocchi with smoked chestnut, chanterelles, black cabbage and pickled walnut.  Brilliant and perfectly prepared.  Desert was Yorkshire rhubarb and Cox apple crumble with vanilla ice cream and warm chocolate pudding, salt caramel and vanilla ice cream instead of the offered banana ice cream (sorry, I hate banana but they were very accommodating).  Absolute genius.  Oh yeah, and the gluten-free bread was the best I've ever had.  Highly, highly recommended.


Raviolo:Gluten-free bread:
Pumpkin gnocchi:
Rib eye:

Last but certainly not least is Tamp Coffee and Tapas in Chiswick.  This is a fairly new restaurant on Devonshire off the High Road so I'm not sure many know of it yet but it's worth finding.  We tried a pretty good cross section of the tapas, all were genuinely excellent and the service was very friendly and helpful.  It's a cozy little spot.  One caveat though: it seems after a certain hour the "coffee" in taps and coffee doesn't apply as we saw two different couples walk after they were told they don't serve coffee after 7pm.  This seems silly for a place with coffee in its name but I can live with it since the food was so good and interesting.  I would like a coffee after my meal though.  The lentil salad that came with the potato tortilla of the day (not what Americans think of a tortilla BTW) was really substantial and seasoned perfectly and very fresh.  The belted provolone was to die for with their brown sour dough (ask them for white bread if you prefer) and the platter of Serrano and Iberico hams were solid though I preferred the Serrano to the much heralded Iberico.  Their Gordal olives were grand and excellent (I had two servings!!).  Highly recommended.

The lentil salad:
Potato Tortilla:
Melted provolone:

That's all for this month.  See you next time.  Eat well and ciento anni!

So we made it to 2017... 

I'm sure I'm not alone in wishing good riddance to 2016.  We lost...a lot.  Let's look forward to growth hopefully.

So, a trip back to the States for the holidays, a first ever and long-overdue trip to San Francisco and back to London which really is home for me.  I know it has been for almost 10 months but though the pangs for Nashville and my house there tugged at me before Christmas coming back to the UK really feels right now.

But let's eat!

One place I really had been yearning to try since I saw it featured on Anthony Bourdain's show was the giant torta at That's It Market on Mission and 23rd in San Fran.  It's basically a liquor store with a small counter on one side with a grill at which they prepare your sandwich a few feet away.  Eggs, pounded, seasoned and breaded steak, ham, bacon, cheese, guac, hot dogs...It far exceeded expectations, in sheer size and taste, and was an experience which is what good food should be, no?  However, I could have done without the hot dogs in the sandwich.  I don't think it added much to the taste, only the wow factor (which was ample!).  It was great though.  Very nicely executed in cooking and presentation.  I sure didn't need to eat anything else for the rest of the day:

Yup!  That really is something, huh?

Next up when I got back to Nashville was Taqueria la Juquilita, a newish, family run joint in the Nations neighborhood where I used to live.  This place is ridiculously fantastic.  Super fresh, really authentic and very affordable.  HOWEVER, don't try to use their advertised coupons or they shrug their shoulders and tell you "thew boss is away" which is totally bogus but even so, completely worth the trip in every way.  The dishes were all savory and extremely flavorful.  Just tremendous.  It's BYOB too but bring your own corkscrew because they don't have one:

My mouth is watering just typing about it!!

The day after the Taqueria was Christmas and we had a few friends over.  Maybe the best Christmas dinner I've had in years.  Perfect turkey (which as many of you know ain't easy) and dynamic, diverse sides and great people.  A few pics:

Mrs. Peggy Simon joined us with our friends Chris and Courtney Bridges.  That's Peggy far right.  "Sail on Silver Girl" herself.  Yup.

Back to restaurants, Cafe Coco is a local Nashville Italian favorite, mostly because the term "Italian food" is used extremely loosely in the South <g>, yet I really enjoyed this visit thanks to the company and the outstanding Chicago Beef sandwich.  The Gardinera was just right and the au jus, soaked in it like it should be, was awesome.  The tortellini is one of the best things on the menu and was solid as always.  My buddy Brian got the bean soup and it looked really great.  Hard to mess that up.  One big bright spot is they make their own fountain sodas which I can heartily recommend.  A++

Back in London after the new year we found what looks like to be a new favorite in the Putney area called Gazette.  Really well done French-inspired food with a touch of modern flair.  Everything was very fresh, very tasty and beautifully presented.  Four bold stars.  And the service was excellent and friendly as well.  Highly recommended, especially brunch:

There was a madeleine on this plate that was so good I couldn't snap a pic in time-
And their coffee was fantastic:

A disappointment, but not a huge one I must admit, was Charlotte's Bistro in Chiswick.  I say not a huge one because I can't remember a more friendly, attentive staff but their chicken liver parfait was the biggest disappointment, practically liquified, uggghhh, but the ricotta gnudi was great as an appetizer.  The partridge was terrible as an entree but the ox tail was okay.  The roast Jerusalem artichoke soup with soft hens egg and trompette mushrooms was the best thing on the menu that night IMO.  Not a bad experience but not a good one either:

The desserts were great though.

Another really great new find in Shepherd's Bush is Buono Amici Italian restaurant run by my new friend Sergio from Tuscany.  Italian for Italians.  What a concept!  No wonder it's brilliant.  The cheese plate starter is to die for and the entrees were magnifico.  Bravo!!  Ciento anni my paesano!  The desert of panna cotta with warm fruit compote is also brilliant and one of the best deserts I've ever had.  Dig:

Last, and in this case least, is the VQ Diner in Notting Hill.  It's basically a fancy yuppie diner IMO.  My full English was okay but I have yet to find a truly great, traditional full English in London which is depressing but the bubble and squeak was hideous.  And does anyone in London know how to make a creamy, thick milk shake?  Stay away:

So, I hate to end it on a less than positive note but there you have it.  The last month of stuffing my face.  I guess it could have been worse.  I did lose a few pounds believe it or not.  I hope you all had a happy, healthy and prosperous holiday season and new year.  Here's to 2017.  May it bring us all happiness and adventure and at the very least comedy in watching our leaders flounder in finding new ways to lie to us.  Cheers!!!

End of the year wrap up 

Been a few more culinary treats (and tricks) since my last post so I'd like to share and wish everyone a safe and happy holiday season:

Vino Teca is a chain of restaurants in London but is very well designed and executed.  You get a very "small town" vibe from the decor and presentation yet the food is beautifully and carefully prepared (we sat near the open-form kitchen) and the staff is excellent.  Slightly left-of-center dishes are a nice twist on familiar fare and everything was hearty and delicious.  Olives, cheese plate, potatoes, squid and buffalo mozzarella were great as starters and ample.  Ravioli, pork, hake over lentils also were excellent as main dishes and the blood orange infused creme brulee was fantastic for desert.  Not too pricey either.  Recommended.

Big thumbs up for Mazi in Notting Hill.  Greek-French fusion and though that may sound weird I tell you it's not and one of my new favorite places.  The dips for starters are their specialty.  I'd skip the fish roe (too fishy in the aftertaste which bloomed after a few seconds) but the spicy Tiropita is a must.  They suppl small, thin pieces of fine bread and you do the rest.  Super duper.  The osso bucco main was excellent and the scallops were just okay but there's a ton of great stuff on the menu I'm eager to try.  Desert was a wonderful pistachio and mastiha parfait with green apple sorbet and yes it's incredible and very refreshing.  The staff was very knowledgeable and attentive without getting in the way.  A tad on the pricey side but well worth it IMO.

Had a lovely lunch at Honey and Co. in Fitzrovia which was packed and stayed that way even after lunch hour passed but it was superb.  My lunch date had the lamb which looked great and ample but I failed to take a pic since I hate lamb (!).  However the meatballs were incredible and the hummus was extremely fresh and thankfully seasoned a bit different than everyone else's.  A+.  I will be back.  BTW-The chocolate cheesecake desert was great but we ate it too fast to take a picture!  Oh, and their coffee is amazing too.

Hopping across the pond for a memorial service I stopped into the Old Homestead Steakhouse in NYC because, well, it's just really damn hard to get a good steak these days.  Rib eye aged and cooked both to perfection (I order medium well and it was perfectly moist in the middle and very flavorful).  Man oh man.  Wow.  The Caesar salad couldn't used a bit more dressing but the lettuce was perfect as was the croutons.  Some more anchovy, or any visible anchovy, would have been a bonus but I've had much worse and that's my only quibble.  Creamed spinach, BIG baked potato, best fried onions EVER super thin and delicate and surf and turf all professionally executed.  I don't even care how much it cost but it didn't kill me.  It was well worth it.  Plus, the old-school decor is right up my alley. A++

Last but not least, and most miraculously, was the restaurant at the Lombardy Hotel in Washington, DC.  Holy Christmas you gotta' have their eggplant salad.  It is HUGE and without a doubt the best salad I've ever eaten in my life and I'm a big salad lover.  It is a mouth-watering thing of beauty.  It should be hanging in a museum were it not so delectable.  Seriously, go to DC just for this salad.  Thank me later.

Okay, so that's it for 2016.  I'm not shamed to say I'm happy to see it go as it's been a crazy year for many of us but it's a personal delight to be sharing my meager, humble musings with y'all and I hope you're holidays and fine, safe and happy.  Be careful out there!!!  See you on the flip flop.  Pics below:

Vino Teca:


Honey and Co:

The Old Homestead:

Eggplant salad at the Lombardy Hotel:

London Chocolate Fest, British Museum and more 

Okay, just about on the mend from the horrible flu or whatever it was going around and what better way to recover than chocolate??  Right!  So, the London Chocolate Fest was nearby in Olympia near Hammersmith so I couldn't resist.  Fantastic way to try out various brands and configurations you'd never have time or patience for in a store, if of course your local shop even carried some of this stuff.

My favorite was the Octo raw chocolate with coconut milk (Vegan BTW) and the Go*Do puro piacere Italian organic chocolate.  Just the right balances of sugar and cocoa and uniquely balanced flavors.  That's not to say that I didn't actually enjoy some of the no sugar added brands which really surprised me but overall that ain't my thing.  I need my sugar!  There was a coupla' guys from France with large chunks of their fresh nougat that was also fantastic.  Loved the vanilla nougat particularly.  But it was a very impressive display of countries, brands and combinations.  Pics below.

If you do come to London you gotta' check out the British Museum if you're into that sort of thing.  Free admission and MASSIVE amounts of displays.  I suggest picking a section and perusing and come back another day for a different section so you don't get overwhelmed.  There are also guided tours, one of which I overheard that was fascinating.  Did you know that after Thomas Beckett was murdered the monks saved as much of his blood so that they could sell it later mixed with a little water?  Hmmm.

Two new restaurants this week, neither really worth writing home about.  Carvossa in Chiswick which has a nice enough ambience, just above pub but classy, but the food was just merely good, not great.  Superb pate for an appetizer but that's about it.  My aged rib eye was thin and not extremely tasty for how it was advertised.  It was cooked perfectly though so there's that.

Also checked out highly rated Pho in Soho and that was really disappointing.  Their broth was a cut above most and their home-made meatballs were great but they were light on the noodles, sprouts and the service stank.  They actually forgot one of our appetizers and though we asked to have it taken off the bill they still charged us and it took forever for our main course soups to show up and they weren't particularly busy.

One saving grace was Adesso in Richmond.  Really cosy family-run Italian place with a very varied Sicilain menu.  Everything was good!!  From the bread, to the appetizers to the main course it was just perfect.  Perfectly cooked, perfectly seasoned, not too heavy and fantastic service.  I even got to talk to the owner about sauces and approaches and compared notes from our Sicilian grandmothers.  Loved t.  Highly recommended.

One more place to stay away from in London and I should have mentioned this before: Concerto Caffe.  Really crappy pastry and cakes.  They look fabulous in the window but that's all it is, window dressing.  Dry, tasteless crap.  They are a chain and all over the place so avoid, avoid, avoid.  Oh, and the service was poor as well.  Tourist trap.

'till next time!!

Chocolate fest-




The British Museum-